Proposed Education Budget Does Not Increase Funds for HBCUs

The Trump administration’s newly proposed budget did not include an increase in funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and will take money away from and eliminate programs that help disadvantaged students.

The Education Department will, under the new proposal, suffer a 13.5 percent budget cut, going from $68.2 billion in 2017 to $59 billion in 2018. Not only will HBCUs and the Pell Grant Program will receive no additional funding, but the Pell Grant Program will lose its $3.9 billion reserve fund, which leaders had hoped to allocate to summer programs.

Programs receiving significant cuts in funding include Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) and Federal TRIO Programs, both of which help provide funding for students from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds to attend school. The Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs are all to be eliminated entirely.

The proposal describes the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program as “a less well-targeted way to deliver need-based aid than the Pell Grant program.” However, despite cutting and slashing budgets for the aforementioned programs, the Pell Grant Program will not see any benefits.

The Federal Work-Study program will be reduced “significantly” and reformed “to ensure funds go to undergraduate students who would benefit most.” It is not stated who these students are.

The budget states the proposal will “leav[e] the Pell program on sound footing for the next decade” and “[protect] support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions.” But HBCU leaders and community members, as well as other education leaders, do not share this sentiment.

“Less than three weeks ago, this administration claimed it is a priority to advocate for HBCUs but, after viewing this budget proposal, those calls ring hollow,” Rep. Alama Adams (D-N.C.), who graduated from North Carolina A&T State University, an HBCU, said.

Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-LA), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, released a statement expressing his disappointment in the proposed budget:

“Although President Trump promised a ‘New Deal for Black America,’ his budget slashes the federal workforce and cripples domestic programs (e.g. federal student services TRIO programs, LIHEAP, grants for after school programs, Community Development Block Grants, and Community Services Block Grants), and we’re likely to see even more cuts in these areas if he gives tax breaks to the wealthy, as expected. All of this hurts the African-American community. In addition, despite his promise to support and strengthen HBCUs, President Trump proposes to give these schools the same amount of funding they received last year. This budget proposal is not a new deal for African Americans. It’s a raw deal that robs the poor and the middle-class to pay the richest of the rich.”

In a highly publicized meeting, presidents of HBCUs met with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. At the time, Pence said, “You deserve far more credit than you get, and know that beginning today, this administration is committed to making sure that our historically Black colleges and universities get the credit and the attention they deserve.”

However, the proposed budget — and comments from DeVos after the meeting, in which she called HBCUs “”real pioneers when it comes to school choice” — drive home the point that some presidents made following the meeting, which is that there was “very little listening” that day.

Walter M. Kimbrough, president of Dillard University, followed up the meeting with a blog post, in which he stressed the importance of the Pell grant and how crucial it is to the success of students of color and especially ones attending HBCUs:

“The Pell Grant should be the equalizer. It serves 36% of all students, 62% of Black students, and over 70% attending HBCUs. But the education as a private good philosophy has severely limited its impact on the neediest families.”

Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), on Thursday wrote a letter to Mick Mulvaney, director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, urging the administration to reconsider its outlined budget. Lomax said he “would be pleased” to work with the administration in planning the budget.

Without federal funding, “President Trump’s commitment to HBCUs and the rebuilding of African American communities will be unfulfilled promises,” Lomax writes.

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a national organization that supports HBCUs, issued a statement praising the proposed budget, noting that HBCUs “fared much better than other higher education stakeholders and federal agencies” when considering the Department’s overall budget cut.

“We believe, given that 90% of HBCU students receive some form of financial assistance, even with the proposed reduction, the Federal Work-Study Program will continue to serve our population as many of our undergraduate students would no doubt continue to qualify for this important program,” the statement reads, adding, “President Trump’s decision to maintain $492 million in HBCU funding and not cut the Title IV Pell Grant program demonstrates that HBCUs matter to this Administration. Because HBCUs enroll a disproportionately high number of economically-disadvantaged students, the reduction in the Federal Work-Study Program should not impact our community significantly.”

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